Sunday, December 19, 2010

Albert Abraham Michelson

Albert Abraham Michelson was born on December 19, 1852 in Strenlo, Prussia (now Poland). His family moved two years later to Virginia City, Nevada where his father was a merchant. The family later moved to San Francisco, California, where Michelson first attended public school. He graduated in 1869 and President Ulysses S. Grant appointed him to the United States Naval Academy from which he graduated in 1873 and served for two years as an ensign on a cruise of the West Indies. After the cruise he he returned to the Naval Academy teaching chemistry and physics. In 1879 he was posted to the Naval Almanac Office. A year later he obtained a leave of absence so that he could go to Europe to continue his education where he visited the universities of Berlin and Heidelberg, and the College de France and the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris.

Michelson was fascinated with the speed of light. While at Annapolis he had repeated the Jean Bernard Leon Foucault's 1850 measurement, improving Foucault's rotating mirror system. After two years of studying in Europe he resigned from the Navy in 1881. In 1883 he took a position as a professor of physics at the Case School of Applied Science in Cleveland, OH. There he concentrated on developing an interferometer to use in his experiments.

In 1887 he performed, with Edward Morley, the experiment for which he is most famous. At the time it was believed that the earth (and everybody on it) was traveling through the aether, and electromagnetic waves (light) were affected by the movement of the aether. In order to test this effect Michelson and Morely used a light beam that was split in half and half was reflected in a right angle to the original beam. The light beams were then reflected back to the starting point where the interferometer was used to determine their velocities. The result was a null result and both light beams, traveling identical distances had both arrived back at the starting point at the same time, thus had equal velocities. This result proved that there was no aether and light could propagate at the same speed in any direction. For this work Michelson was awarded the Nobel Prize in 1907, becoming the first American to win the prize.

In 1889 Michelson moved to Clark University in Worcester, MA and in 1892 he was appointed professor of physics at the new University of Chicago. He continued his attempts to measure the speed of light and developed a way to use interferometry to determine the diameter of stars. In addition to the Nobel he has also won the Copley medal, the Henry Draper Medal and a gold medal from the Royal Astronomical Society. For his work he was awarded several honorary degrees and a crater on the moon is named after him

He died on May 9, 1931.


Law, Fredrick Houk; Modern Great Americans: Short Biographies of 20 Great Americans of Modern Times Who Won Wide Recognition for Achievements in Various Types of Activity; Ayer Publishing, 1969

Albert A. Michelson, Nobel Biography

Albert Abraham Michelson Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, December 12, 2010

William Henry

William Henry was born in Manchester, England on December 12, 1775. He was the son of Thomas Henry an apothecary and a founder of the Manchester Literary and Philosophical Society. Henry's early education took place at the Manchester Academy and he was apprenticed to Thomas Percival, a physician. As a boy he suffered an injury, caused by a beam falling on him, which left his growth stunted and caused pain. Because of the injury Henry would later abandon medical practice and instead devote his time to laboratory research. Dr. Percival had poor eyesight and was prone to headaches so he had Henry read to him. After a five year apprenticeship Henry went to Edinburgh University, where he studied medicine. While at Edinburgh he also attended the chemistry lectures of Joseph Black. He attained his M.D. in 1807.

While studying medicine Henry was also doing chemistry research. At the time it was believed that all acids contain oxygen and Henry attempted to remove oxygen from muriatic (hydrochloric) acid by electrocution. He was of course unsuccessful. When in 1810 Humphrey Davy proved that muriatic acid contained only hydrogen and chloride, Henry supported him, publishing a paper with further evidence in 1812. In 1802 he published an experiment where he measured the amount of dissolved gas in a liquid at different temperatures he showed that as the temperature drops the amount of dissolved gas increases.

He is most famous for discovering that the amount of a gas dissolved in a liquid is proportional to the partial pressure of the gas above the liquid. This is known as Henry's law. An example of how this law applies can be seen in canned or bottled carbonated soda. Before the can or bottle is opened the gas over the liquid is almost all carbon dioxide and the liquid contains dissolved carbon dioxide. When the can or bottle is opened the carbon dioxide over the drink is released and bubbles of carbon dioxide appear in the drink. As the partial pressure above the liquid is lowered (when the can or bottle is opened and exposed to the air) the dissolved carbon dioxide in the drink comes out of solution, producing bubbles. If the bottle or can is left to go to equilibrium almost all of the carbon dioxide will leave the liquid, and the soda will go flat.

Henry won the Copley Medal in 1808 and was elected a fellow of the Royal Society in 1809. In 1801 he published "An Epitome of Chemistry", later renamed "The Elements of Experimental Chemistry", which went through eleven editions and was last published in 1829.

He died on September 2, 1836.

"William Henry" in The Dictionary of National Biography; Leslie Stephen and Sidney Lee, Editors; Macmillian Compan; 1908

William Henry Wikipedia Entry

Monday, December 6, 2010

Carl Ferdinand Cori

Carl Ferdinand Cori was born on December 5, 1896 in Prague, then part of Austria-Hungary. There were university professors on both sides of his family; his maternal gradfather was theoretical physicist Ferdinand Lipich and father was a marine biologist. He moved with his family to Trieste when he was two, where his father was the director of the Marine Biological Station. Young Cori's interest in science was sparked by his father, who took him on expeditions to collect samples. Young Cori was also a practical joker, one time planting silk worms in his mother's parlor, timed so that the moths would escape their cocoons during a party his mother was throwing. His mother was mortified. After graduating from gymnasium, in 1914, Carl went to study medicine at the Charles-Ferdinand University in Prague. During World War I he served as a lieutenant in the ski corps. and sanitary corps. on the Italian front. After the war he returned to the university where he finished his medical education and met his wife Gerty who was also a medical student.

After a year as an assistant in pharmacology at the University of Graz, he and his wife emigrated to America, where he took a position as a biochemist at the State Institute for the Study of Malignant Diseases in Buffalo, New York. In 1928 the Coris became naturalized American citizens and in 1931 he was appointed professor of pharmacology in the medical school at Washington University in St. Louis. The Coris, Carl and Gerty, collaborated on their research, starting in their student days.

At first their research was on immunology, but they switched the topic of their research to study the fate of sugar in the human body. In 1936 they succeeded in isolating glucose-1-phosphate, a key intermediate in sugar metabolism. Once glucose enters the cell, phosphate is added to it enzymatically, forming glucose-1-phosphate. With the negatively charged phosphate group attached to it, glucose is then unable diffuse through the lipid bilayer of the cell membrane, keeping glucose sequestered within the cell, where it may be broken down to release energy. The Coris also studied how glucose can be reversibly stored for later use as glycogen and discovered the enzymes responsible. For their discovery of how glycogen is produced they were awarded half of the Nobel Prize of Physiology and Medicine in 1947.

Gerty Cori died in 1957 and Carl retired from Washington University in 1966. After retirement he moved to Cambridge, Massachusetts where he worked on genetic research at Harvard University.

Cori died on October, 24, 1984.


Cori, Carl F.; "The Call of Science"; Annual Review of Biochemistry (1969)38:1-21

Carl Ferdinand Cori Wikipedia Entry

Carl Cori Nobel Biography

Monday, November 29, 2010

Christian Andreas Doppler

Christian Andreas Doppler was born on November, 29, 1803 in Salzburg, Austria. He was the son of a successful stonemason, but as he grew he was unable to work in his father's business due to his frailty and generally poor health. Doppler attended primary school in Salzburg and Secondary school in Linz. Unsure about the academic potential of their son, his parents consulted a mathematics professor who suggested that he study higher mathematics at the Vienna Polytechnic Institute. Doppler began his studies there in 1822. He excelled at mathematics and graduated in 1825. After graduation he returned to Salzburg, where he attended philosophy lectures at the Salzburg Lyceum and afterward studied higher mathematics, mechanics and astronomy at the University of Vienna.

At the end of his studies he was appointed assistant to mathematics professor A. Burg at Vienna University. He remained in this position for four years publishing papers on mathematics. At the age of 30 he began competing to find a permanent position. At that time open competitions were held to fill open professorships. Doppler competed for many positions and while he was waiting he supported himself by working as a bookkeeper for a cotton spinning factory. Despairing of not getting a position, Doppler sold his things in order to finance a trip to America, but before his final decision was made he was offered a position at the Technical Secondary School in Prague. Doppler was ambitious and wanted to do more than teach elementary mathematics. He applied to become a professor at the Polytechnic in Prague without success, until 1841 when he was appointed to the post.

Doppler's tenure at the Polytechnic was rocky and his students complained that his examinations were to difficult. He was reprimanded and forced to reexamine his students. In 1844 he was forced to give up teaching due to his poor health. He returned in 1846. Leaving his troubles in Prague behind he took a position as professor of mathematics, physics and mechanics at the Academy of Forests and Mines in Banska Stiavnica. As a result of the stormy revolutionary year 1848 Doppler sought refuge and went to Vienna, where he was appointed as the first director of the Institute of Physics at Vienna University.

Not all of Doppler's contemporaries considered him a brilliant mathematician, but he had an original way of looking at things that not all appreciated. For years Doppler attempted to become a member of the Bohemian Society, and despite good recommendations it was not until 1843 that he was elected in. In 1842 he presented a paper on the color of binary stars and how it is affected by their motion, to or away from the observer. Although the color changes of binary stars are not great enough to be significant, light is a wave and if a star emitting light is traveling toward the observer it will shorten the wavelength of light it is emitting moving it toward the red end of the visual spectrum. If the star is moving away from the observer the wavelengths grow longer, shifting the wavelength to the blue/violet end of the visible spectrum. These effects are called red shift and blue shift. This effect is most easily demonstrated with sound waves. A siren approaching the observer has a higher pitch than it would have if it were stationary with respect to the observer. As the siren passes the observer the pitch drops lower than it would have if it were stationary with respect to the observer. In 1845 Doppler performed an experiment with trumpeters on a railway car playing a single sustained note. As the railway approached and passed musicians recorded what notes they heard, demonstrating that the horn's pitch lowered as they passed the observer. This effect is called the Doppler effect.

Doppler died on March 17, 1853 in Venice, then a part of the Austrian Empire.

O'Connor, JJ and Robertson, EF; "Christian Andreas Doppler"; MacTutor History of Mathematics Archive; University of St. Andrews

Maizlin, Z.V.; The Wonders of Radiology; Create Space; 2010

Christian Doppler Wikipedia Entry

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff

Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff was born on November 21, 1867 in Moscow, Russia. Ipatieff spent his early years studying for a military career. At age 11, after two years of regular gymnasium, he enrolled at the Third Moscow Military Gymnasium. Although he excelled in math generally his grades were poor until he reached the sixth class at age fourteen. After graduation, at sixteen he went to the Alexander Military School in Moscow when he failed to be admitted to the Mikhail Artillery School in St. Petersberg. He worked hard to achieve grades that led his class and in 1886 he transferred to the Mikhail Artillery School. He graduated in 1887 and was commissioned a lieutenant, using a portion of the money given to him by the government and his father to set up a chemistry laboratory in his home.

He began teaching chemistry at the artillery academy and working toward a doctorate, which he obtained from St. Petersberg University in 1906. He began teaching at the university in 1906 as a lecturer and remained until 1916. During World War I he served as the director of the Commission for Preparation of Explosives and Chair of the Chemical Committee. Because he was uninterested in politics he was asked, after the revolution, to remain in charge and help convert the wartime chemical industry to a peacetime industry. In 1930, at the age of 64, taking his wife with him, he left the Soviet Union to go to a meeting in Berlin. He never returned. Initially he split his time between the United States and Berlin, but eventually settled in the United States.

Ipatieff's research interests were studying the effects of high pressures and catalysts on hydrocarbons. In 1927 he founded the High Pressure Institute, where he and his students studied the effect of inorganic molecules (catalysts) on organic compounds at high pressures and temperatures. To perform these studies Ipatieff developed a bomb shaped steel case that could withstand high pressures, called an Ipatieff bomb. Catalysts are compounds that when added to a chemical reaction lower the activation energy necessary for the reaction to happen, thus speed the reaction. Inorganic (non-carbon containing) compounds are often used as catalysts in organic (carbon containing) chemistry. One example of a catalytic reaction discovered by Ipatieff is the preparation of high-octane fuels by the catalytic conversion of paraffin. The high octane fuels that were produced were used by the British Air Force during World War II, and allowed British airplanes to go faster than German planes.

After moving to the United States Ipatieff obtained a lecturer position at Northwestern University and worked for the Universal Oil Products Company. Initially the Soviet Union tried to encourage Ipatieff to return, but he had no desire to return. Eventually he was denounced by the Soviet Union (and even by his own son, who was a chemistry teacher) and had his citizenship revoked. He was also expelled from the Russian Academy of Science. He became a U. S. citizen in 1937 and was elected the National Academy of Science in 1939. Throughout his time in the U.S. he remained active in his research, publishing almost 160 papers between 1933 and 1954, and with his name on more than 200 patents.

Ipatieff died on November 29, 1952.


McDermott, Wm. F.; "Faster than Bullets"; The Rotarian (1951) Vol. 58 No. 1:29-31, 56

Schmerling, Lewis; "Vladimir Nikolaevich Ipatieff: 1867-1952"; in Biographical Memiors Vol. 57; National Academy Press; 1975

Sunday, November 14, 2010

William Hewson

William Hewson was born on November. 14, 1739 in Hexham, Northumberland, England. The son of a respected local surgeon also named William Hewson. As was the custom in those days he did not attend medical school, so after attending Hexham Grammar School, he was apprenticed to his father, and was also a pupil of Richard Lambert of Newcastle. In 1759 he went to London, where he lodged with John Hunter. While attending lectures on anatomy given by Hunter's older brother William, he studied at Guy's and St. Thomas hospitals. When in 1760 William Hunter went abroad with the army, Hewson continued the lectures for the other pupils.

Recognizing his extraordinary ability, when William Hunter returned he offered to take Hewson on as a partner teaching anatomy, if Hewson would go to Edinborough and study for a year, which Hewson did. He returned to London in the winter of 1762 and began lectureing with Hunter which provided him a steady income. The Hunter brothers both studied and taught anatomy, but in addition to studying human anatomy they also studied the anatomy of fishes, birds and animals, as did Hewson when he came under their influence. Hewson became interested in blood, lymph and lymphatic organs such as the thymus which which he was one of the first to study microscopically. In 1770 Hewson married Mary Stevenson, with whose mother Benjamin Franklin lodged with when he came to London in 1757. Franklin stayed in London until 1775 and became good friends with Mary, whom he called "Polly". Hewson dedicated one of the books that he wrote to Benjamin Franklin.

Hewson was the first to show that the lymphatic system was not part of the circulation and that nodes are stopping points along the lymphatic vessels. He also demonstrated that all parts of the body drain into the lymphatic system and not just the small intestine, by using a dye which he showed ran throughout the body of an animal test subject. The lymphatic system is part of the immune system through which fluid and white blood cells are transported to the heart, and because all parts of the body drain into the lymphatic system it serves as as place where foreign particles can be detected by white blood cells.

Hewson also investigated blood coagulation. He was the first to identify that fibrinogen, the protein that causes blood to coagulate, is found in the plasma. Before it was believed that the protein was a constituent of red blood cells. He believed that it was contact with air that caused blood to coagulate, but this was later disproved by John Hunter who showed that blood could coagulate in a vacuum. It was due to the observations of Hewson that later scientists were able to discover all of the factors of the coagulation cascade, a series of proteins that activate fibrinogen and cause blood to coagulate.

In late April of 1774 Hewson accidentally wounded himself while dissecting a corpse. Septicemia followed and he died on May, 1, 1774 at the age of 34, and was buried at St. Martins in the Fields.


Dameshek, William; "Editorial: William Hewson, Thymicologist; Father of Hematology"; Blood(1963)21:513-516

Doyle, Derek;"William Hewson(1739-1774): The Father of Haematology"; British Journal of Heamatology(2006)133:375-381

Stephen, Leslie and Lee, Sidney;"Hewson, William" in The Dictionary of National Biography Vol. 26; Smith, Elder and Co.; 1891

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Konrad Zacarias Lorenz

Konrad Zacarias Lorenz was born on November 7, 1903 in Altenberg, Vienna, the son of an orthopedic surgeon. His parents had a large house and garden which allowed him to keep many animals. In an autobiography he says, "they were supremely tolerant of my inordinate love for animals." His study of animals started at a young age and he became an expert on the behaviour of ducks. His first exposure to evolution came from his reading, but in school, even though he studied under a Benedictine Monk he learned about Darwin's theory of evolution, free thought being a characteristic of Austria. His interest in the study of evolution led him to study paleontology as a means of understanding evolution.

After high school, following his father's wishes he took pre-medical school classes at Columbia University. He stayed at Columbia for a year before returning to Vienna where he continued his medical studies at the University of Vienna, finishing his MD in 1928. In medical school his anatomy professor was Ferdinand Hoschsetter, and under his teaching Lorenz began to study comparative anatomy, which he soon realized was a better way to study evolution than paleontology. After graduation, instead of practicing medicine Lorenz continued his studies in comparative anatomy, supporting himself by taking a position at the university as an assistant in the Institute of Anatomy, which he retained until 1935. In 1933 he finished his Ph.D. in comparative anatomy. Throughout he kept studying the birds on his parents estate.

In 1936 Lorenz met Nikolaas Tinbergen at a conference in Leiden, Holland. Lorenz found that their studies had much in common and he invited Tinbergen to come to work with him at his parents estate. With Tinbergen, he conducted experiments using the birds on his parent's estate. In these studies they compared the behavior of the wild, domestic and hybrid geese. They showed that domesticated geese had an increased drive for feeding and copulation, but showed a decrease in socialization. Soon after came the Anchluss, the German annexation of Austria, and Lorenz wrote about the differences of domesticated species using terms of Nazi ideology. These allowed Lorenz to be appointed the chair in psychology at Koningsberg. Lorenz later recanted these writings. During the World War II Lorenz served as a physician on the German side, until he was captured by the Russians, after which he was a prisoner of war, serving the medical needs of the Russian army.

After being released by the Russians, Lorenz returned to Altenberg. Unable to obtain an academic position, with the aid of donations and his students he continued his animal research there concentrating again on water fowl and fish. He made a study of the bonding of water fowl and aggressiveness of fish. Even after years of watching animals he found there were new insights and published more papers describing these behaviours. In 1950 the Max Planck Society established the Lorenz Institute for Behavioural Physiology in Buldern, Germany.

In 1973 Lorenz, Tinbergen, and Karl Von Frisch won the Nobel Prize for Physiology and Medicine for "their discoveries concerning organization and elucidation of individual and social behavior patterns". They were awarded the prize for developing the science of ethology. Ethology is the study of animal behavior with regard to evolution. Where a psycologist will study the behavoir of an animal in a laboratory, out of the animals native environment, an ethologist studies behavior in the environment. Studying how evolution has affected an animal's behavior.

Lorenz died on February 27, 1989.


Fuller, Ray; Seven Pioneers of Psychology: Behaviour and Mind
; Psychology Press; 1995

Lorenz, Konrad, Nobel Autobiography

Lorenz, Konrad Wikipedia Entry

Monday, October 25, 2010

Marian Elliot Koshland

Marian Elliot Koshland was born in New Haven, Connecticut on October 15, 1921 to Margarethe Smith Elliot, a teacher and Walter Elliot a hardware salesman. When she was four, her younger brother contracted typhoid fever. While her parents sat vigil at her brother's hospital bedside, two girls next door taught her to read and do math. After her brother returned home, she and her brother were kept in quarantine by her parents for the next year. Her father took the part of schoolmaster, teaching his daughter. When she went to schools she was more advanced than her peers, giving her a confidence in her ability to learn. In high school she took the hardest classes and after graduation was admitted to Vassar College, where she supported herself with scholarships and lived in a co-op dormitory. She graduated in 1942 with a B.A. in bacteriology.

After graduation she spent one year at medical school, but opted to go to the University of Chicago where she earned a M.S. in bacteriology (1943) and a Ph.D. in immunology (1949). While at the University of Chicago she worked on two projects, one was a vaccine for cholera, intended to help service men serving in the Far East and the other was working on ways to prevent the spread of disease among military recruits. In 1945 she married Daniel Koshland and went to Oak Ridge, Tennessee to be with her husband and work on the Manhattan Project. In Oak Ridge she studied the biological effects of radiation. After she and her husband graduated, in 1949, they moved to Boston, Massachusetts, where both had postdoctoral positions at Harvard. After two years they moved to Long Island, where they both worked at Brookhaven National Laboratory and in 1965 they moved to Berkeley. At Brookhaven she was initially refused a position, but in exchange for editing the publications that followed Brookhaven symposia she was able to get a laboratory and an assistant. The Koshlands had five children, the first comming while they were graduate students at the University of Chicago, the second in 1949, two years later they had twins and the youngest child was born in 1953.

Koshland's research dealt with antibodies. Antibodies are molecules that are secreted by immune cells that attach to molecules that are foreign to the body and signal the immune system's other cells to destroy them. In the 1950's at Brookhaven, Koshland determined that there were more than one type of antibodies. She discovered that immune cells that protect mucosal cells (cells that compose outer layers of tissue, exposed to an environment, in the stomach or lungs for example) secrete a different type of antibody than the immune cells that circulate in the blood. Later, during the 1960s, she determined the amino acid structure of antibodies that bind to different pathogens is different. At the time it was believed that antibodies could bind to different things by means of different protein folds. She proved that it was different amino acids in the structure of antibodies that give them the ability to bind to different things. In the 1970s she identified a antibody protein called the j-chain (or joining chain) that allows antibodies to assemble into multiple units. The antibody secreted by circulating immune cells (called IgG) is composed of four protein molecules and has only two spaces where it binds to another protein. Some antibody complexes are larger and as many as five or six of these IgG-like units (composed of four protein molecules with two binding spots) which give them as many as ten or twelve spots to bind foreign molecules and some use this j-chain to put more than one IgG-like unit together (for an article about the structure of the different types of antibodies go here).

In 1991 Koshland was elected to the National Academy of Science. She served as the chair of the U.C. Berkeley Department of Immunology and Bacteriology from 1981 to 1989 and she has been awarded numerous honorary degrees.

She died of lung cancer on October 28, 1996.


Guyer, Ruth Levey; "Marian Elliot Koshland"; Biographical Memoirs Vol. 90; National Academy Press; 2009

Saunders, Robert; Press Release on the death of Marian Koshland; November 6, 1997

Wasserman, Elga; The Door in the Dream: Conversations with Eminent Women in Science; Joseph Henry Press; 2002

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Ernest William Goodpasture

Ernest William Goodpasture was born on a farm near Clarksville, Tennessee on October 17, 1886. His father, Albert Goodpasture, was a lawyer and a farmer, who served in the Tennessee state government and ran a publishing business. It was said by his family that he took after his maternal grandfather, Dr. Stephen L. Dawson, who went to California during the gold rush, and then returned to Tennessee for a long medical practice.

Goodpasture's early education was at public schools in Nashville, Tennessee starting in 1893. Later he attended Bowen's Preparatory Academy. He went to Vanderbilt University in 1903 and graduated in 1907. After a period in which he taught elementary school in order to secure funds for his further education he started at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in 1908, finishing his M.D. in 1912. After graduation, with the help of a Rockefeller Fellowship he stayed at Johns Hopkins working in the school of pathology. He remained at Johns Hopkins three years after graduation, first as a fellow, then an instructor and in his third year as a resident.

In 1915 Goodpasture took a position as a pathology resident at Brigham Hospital and as an instructor in pathology at Harvard Medical School. After a two year absence, in which he served as a naval medical officer during World War I, publishing papers on the pathology of influenzal pneumonia, Goodpasture returned to Harvard where he was made assistant professor. In 1921 eager to study tropical diseases, Goodpasture took a assistant professor position at the University of the Philippines in Manila. After a year in the Philippines, Goodpasture took a position as the director of William H. Singer laboratories in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In 1924 Goodpasture accepted a position at Vanderbilt University and was able to return to his native state, where he remained until 1955, serving as dean of the school of medicine from 1945 to 1950.

Goodpasture's research mostly delt with viral diseases. His early work was to study the route of spread of herpes virus in neural tissue. In 1931 Goodpasture, with the help of his colleague Alice Woodruff was investigating fowl-pox and needed means to grow large numbers of viruses. Viruses, unlike bacteria, are unable to reproduce on their own. Viruses must infect cells and use their genetic machinery to reproduce themselves. Using the tissue of chicken embryos, they were able to effectively grow viruses. This discovery made it easier for researchers to grow viruses and was a huge advance in virology. Vaccines against viral diseases, today, are grown from eggs in this manner. In 1934, working with Claud D. Johnson, Goodpasture was the first to isolate the virus that causes mumps.

In 1955 Goodpasture retired from Vanderbilt University and took a position as director of the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology and with his wife he moved to Washington D.C. He served as director until 1959, after which he returned to Nashville. He died in Nashville on September 20, 1960.


Long, Esmond R.; "Ernest William Goodpasture 1886-1960"; Biographical Memoirs; National Academy Press

Ernest William Goodpasture Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Lester Halbert Germer

Lester Halbert Germer was born on October 10, 1896 in Chicago, Illinois and lived most of his childhood in Canastota, New York. He graduated from Cornell University in 1917. After graduation he joined Bell Labs and then served in World War I as a fighter pilot, earning a citation from General Pershing. After the war he returned to Bell Labs and finished his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1927.

At Bell Labs, Germer initially worked as an assistant to Clinton Davisson. In April of 1925 Davisson and Germer began working on an experiment studying the diffraction of electrons off of a nickel surface. At first their results were similar to results obtained four years earlier. Then suddenly the results changed. Looking for an explanation for the change they cut open the vacuum tube containing the nickel target. With the help of microscopist F. F. Lewis they observed that the crystalline surface of the nickel target had changed due to extreme heating. They believed that the change in their results was due to the change of the crystalline surface of the nickel target.

They performed a similar experiment in 1927, after Davisson had attended a conference where Louis-Victor DeBroglie's hypothesis about the wave nature of matter was presented. When electrons of known velocity were used to bombard the nickel surface at a 45 degree angle they observed that the diffraction of the electrons obeyed Bragg's Law, which relates the wavelength of diffracted x-rays with the lattice spacing of the target and the angle of diffraction. This was the first proof of DeBroglie's particle wave hypothesis. For this work Germer and Davisson were awarded the Elliot Cression Medal in 1931 (Davisson shared the 1937 Nobel Prize in Physics with George Thompson, who preformed a different experiment confirming DeBroglie's hypothesis four months later).

DeBroglie's hypothesis, that matter, like electromagnetic radiation, has a wave like nature is one of the more surprising revaluations that came with the development of quantum mechanics. In his doctoral thesis DeBroglie hypothesized that the wavelength of matter is dependant on its mass and velocity and that the wavelength is equal to Planck's constant divided by the momentum (p=mass*velocity) of the matter (wavelength=h/p).

After this experiment Germer continued working at Bell Labs, studying the use of this technique to determine the structure of surfaces, work that eventually led to the development of the electron microscope. In addition to his work at Bell Labs, Germer was also an avid rock climber. On October 3, 1971, one week before his 75th birthday, Germer died of a massive heart attack while he was rock climbing.


Lieter, Daryll J. and Lieter, Sharon; "A to Z of Physicists"; Infobase Publishing; 2003

MacRae, Alfred U.; "Lester H. Germer"; Physics Today(1972)25:93-97

Lester Germer Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Sir Patrick Manson

Sir Patrick Manson was born in Oldmeldrum, Aberdeenshire, Scotland on October 3, 1844, the second of nine children in his family. At the age of 15 he was apprenticed to an iron worker related to his mother. Soon after his health broke down and he was forced to spend all but two hours of the day in bed. These two hours he spent studying natural science. Frustrated in his attempt to earn a living as an iron worker he turned to study medicine entering Aberdeen University in 1860, finishing his final examinations by the time he was 20.

In 1866 Manson took a position as a medical officer in Formosa (Taiwan). It was here that Manson began his life long work studying tropical diseases. He remained in Formosa for five years after which he took a position as a medical officer in Amoy, an island 300 miles north of Hong Kong. In Amoy Manson was in charge of the hospital for seamen and a missionary hospital. Prejudice against western medicine was rife among the native population and consequently very few of the native Chinese trusted Manson to operate on them. One young man so overcome by his large elephantoid tumor came to Manson after attempting suicide by swallowing arsenic. Manson was able to remove the tumor and save the young man's life. Rumors of his success spread through the native population, causing a greater demand for his services.

In 1875 Manson went to London to learn more about the causes of elephantitis and chyluria. In London however there was no school that taught about tropical illnesses. His only discovery was an written account in the British Museum by Timothy Lewis, describing the discovery of microscopic worms in the blood and urine of patients with chyluria in Calcutta, India. Armed with this knowledge Manson guessed correctly that there must be another animal that carried the disease. He tested his hypothesis by feeding mosquitoes with the blood of his servant who had the disease and upon dissecting the mosquitoes he found the parasites. Although he thought that mosquitoes passed on the parasites by dying and leaving the parasites in drinking water and not transferring them by biting humans, Manson was the first to identify mosquitoes as a vector for disease.

Over one million people die each year from mosquito borne diseases. When female mosquitoes bite humans (only female mosquitoes bite humans) they inject anti-coagulants, to prevent the human's blood from clotting. With the anti-coagulants infected mosquitoes will also inject viruses and parasites. Diseases spread by mosquitoes include the malaria and helminthiasis (the cause of elephantitis) parasites, and the viruses that cause yellow and dengue fevers.

In 1883 Manson traveled to Hong Kong where he was the force behind the founding of the Medical School of Hong Kong. In 1889 Manson left Asia with the hope of retiring to Scotland. His finances proved inadequate and he returned to London where he began a practice, passing the examination for the Royal College of Physicians within a year. In 1894 Manson published a paper in which he suggested that mosquitoes might be the vector for malaria. This hypothesis would stimulate Ronald Ross into a frenzy of research nailing down the life cycle of the malarial parasite. In 1897 Manson was appointed medical officer to the Colonial Office. There he was able to able to institute many reforms which improved the health of British colonial officers. Also in 1897 Manson published a book on tropical diseases which for many years was the standard reference on the subject. For his discoveries and work in founding medical schools Manson is hailed as the father of tropical medicine.

A lifelong sufferer from gout, Manson succumbed to the disease on April 9, 1922.


Hale-White, Sir William; Great Doctors of the Nineteenth Century; Ayer Publishing; 1970

Jay, Venita; "Sir Patrick Manson: the Father of Tropical Medicine"; Archives of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine (2000)124:1594-1595

Sir Patrick Manson Wikipedia Entry

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Archibald Vivian Hill

Archibald Vivian Hill was born on September 26, 1886 in Bristol, England. His family had little money and Hill won his education by competing for scholarships. His secondary education was at Blundell's School from which he obtained a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge. At Cambridge he studied mathematics and natural sciences, graduating third wrangler (highest honors) in mathematics in 1907. After graduation with the urging of his teacher, Sir Walter Morely Fletcher, he accepted a fellowship to do physiological research that allowed him to stay at Cambridge for four more years.

With the encouragement of John Langley, the owner and editor of the Journal of Physiology, Hill began investigating "the efficiency of cut out frog muscle as a thermodynamic machine". At the time it was known that muscles produce heat in response to a twich or tetanus, in tetanus the rate of heat production declines as the stimulation continues and that the ratio of of work to total energy is dependant on the load and has a maximum of .30. Hill using a more advanced temperature sensing device was able to determine that heat was produced both during and after muscle contraction, in the recovery phase.

From 1914 to 1919 Hill devoted his time to the war effort, commanding an experimental anti-aircraft section. After the war, Hill returned to Cambridge and soon after accepted a faculty chair at Manchester University. He continued his research into the heat production of muscles, discovering that the heat produced at the initiation of a muscle contraction did not require the presence of oxygen gas. The heat produced by muscles upon recovery however was greater in the presence of oxygen than it was in nitrogen.

Working in at the same time the German biochemist Otto Meyerhof had shown that in the recovery phase lactic acid, which was believed to be the chemical product of muscle contraction, can be reconverted back into glycogen or combusted by oxidation. Hill shared the 1922 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine with Meyerhof "for his discovery relating to the heat in the muscle". This synthesis of thermodynamics and biochemistry, though some was later proved incorrect, was the first coordinated explanation of muscle function. Together Hill and Meyerhof coauthored only one paper together, but Hill kept a stack of the reprints of Meyerhof's papers, which he was constantly referring to. Hill and Meyerhof received their Nobel Prizes in 1923. In 1923, shortly before the Nobel was announced, Hill accepted a professorship at London University, where he remained until 1951.

As years passed a clearer picture of the chemical processes involved in the production of high energy compounds used in muscle contraction emerged. Eventually it became clear that there were two chemical pathways by which the energy used in muscle contraction was produced, one dependant on oxygen and another independent of oxygen, the so called aerobic and anaerobic pathways. In the aerobic, with oxygen, pathway glucose, the major source of biochemical energy, is converted entirely into water and carbon dioxide. In the anaerobic pathway glucose is broken down with lactic acid as an end product. Hill's observation of a smaller heat produced in the recovery phase without oxygen is the muscle tissue rebuilding its store of high energy compounds with the production of lactic acid.

After receiving the Nobel Prize Hill continued his work on muscle biophysics and extended his research to the measurement of heat released by nerve impulses. His work is largely responsible for the emergence of the study of biophysics. Other honors he received include election to the Royal Society in 1918, the Royal Society's Copley Medal in 1948 and numerous honorary doctorates from universities British and foreign. He served as a member of Parliament, representing Cambridge from 1940 to 1945.

Hill died on June 3, 1977.


Bassett Jr., David R.; Scientific Contributions of A. V. Hill: Exercise Physiology Pioneer; Journal of Applied Physiology(2002)93:1567-1582

Archibald V. Hill Nobel Biography

Archibald Hill Wikipedia Entry

Monday, September 20, 2010

Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre

Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre was born near Amiens, France on September 19, 1749. The eldest child in his family, he suffered from a bout of smallpox at the age of 15 months. His parents feared he would loose his eyesight, and he did loose his eyelashes, which never grew back in, but although his sight was limited he did not go blind. Fear of loosing his eyesight made him a voracious reader, and he was able to memorize all that he read, becoming fluent in English, German and Italian.

He attended the Jesuit college in Amiens until 1764 when Jesuits were banned from France and he continued his education under teachers brought from Paris. Originally his intent was to become a parish priest, but with the encouragement of his teachers he went to Paris to continue his studies. He won a scholarship at the College du Plessis where he studied classical languages and prepared himself for university study. He sat for the university entrance exam, but with his poor eyesight he had difficulty reading the exam and he failed to gain a scholarship. His parents, unable to afford a university education, urged him to return to Amiens, instead he began studying mathematics in order that he could become a tutor and he took a position as the tutor of the son of a nobleman in Compiegne. Studying mathematics he soon became an expert, developing exceptional calculating skills.

In 1771 Delambre returned to Paris to take a position tutoring the son of Jean-Claude Geoffroy d'Assy, the Receiver General of Finances. He took this position for less than d'Assy offered in exchange for housing. Once again in Paris he began studying Greek and Greek sciences, including astronomy. He continued his study of astronomy, studying the works of current astronomers, including Jerome Lelande. He began attending lectures given by Lelande and soon impressed the teacher with his knowledge, so much so that Lelande offered him a position as his assistant. In 1786 Delambre observed the transit of Mercury across the sun and found that the tables of its transit, prepared by Lelande, were inaccurate, and Delambre would expend much effort to correct them. He also completed tables of the orbits of Jupiter and Saturn. In 1789 Delambre won a prize from the Academie des Sciences for correctly determining the orbit of Uranus. At the time of the French Revolution Delambre changed his name, which had originally been D'Lambre in order that he would not be arrested.

Delambre was elected associate member of the mathematical section of the Academie des Sciences in 1792 and was given a commission by the Academie to measure the arc distance between Dunkerque to Rodez. This was part of the Commission of Weights and Measures attempt to define the meter. It had been decided to define the meter, the unit of length measurement in the newly created metric system, as one ten millionth of a quarter of the distance between the North Pole and the equator. Delambre reported his results in 1799, having twice been detained by revolutionary forces, and accused of espionage. Delambre finished the report, establishing the length of the meter, in 1806.

Delambre devoted the remainder of his career to the study of the history of mathematics and astronomy. His major work was a six volume history of astronomy, the first two volumes covering ancient astronomy and the remaining four on astronomy of the middle ages, the Renaissance, the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries receptively. The final two volumes were published posthumously. This work has been haled by science historian I. Bernard Cohen as "the greatest full-scale technical history of a single branch of science written by a single individual". Delambre also has a crater on the moon named after him.

Delambre died on August 19, 1882.


O'Connor, JJ and Robertson, EF; "Jean Baptiste Joseph Delambre"; at

Jarrell, Richard A.; "Delambre, Jean-Baptiste Joseph (1749-1822)" in History of Astronomy: An Encyclopedia; John Lankford ed.; Taylor and Francis; 1997

Jean Baptiste Joseph Delamber wikipedia entry

Monday, September 13, 2010

Irene Joliot-Curie

Irene Juliot-Curie was born in Paris, France on September 12, 1897, the daughter of nuclear scientists Marie and Pierre Curie. After a year of formal education when she was six, Juliot-Currie's parents joined a group of distinguished French academics called "The Cooperative" which took turns providing instruction for their children. Classes took place at the academic's homes and provided instruction not only on science but diverse subjects such as Chinese and sculpture. After 2 years of this instruction she returned to a more traditional academic setting, attending the College Sevigne for two years. She then went to the Sorbonne, but her studies were interrupted by the outbreak of World War I.

During the war Juliot-Curie helped her mother operating primitive X-ray machines that had been made possible by Marie's research. The machines made it possible to for doctors to locate shrapnel in patients, but the equipment was primitive and she suffered from radiation exposure. After the war she returned to Paris where she worked at her parents' Radium Institute and she completed a doctoral thesis concerning the alpha rays emited by polonium. She was awarded her doctorate in 1925.

While working on her doctorate she was asked to teach the techniques used in radiochemical research to a young chemical engineer named Federic Joliot. They would later marry and share hyphenated last names. Their collaborative study of atomic nuclei was the first to identify the existence of neutrons and positrons, although James Chadwick and C. D. Anderson, respectively, would claim the discoveries. Their breakthrough came in 1934, after bombarding a thin sheet of aluminum with alpha particles, they noticed that the area bombarded gave off positive electrons, after the alpha particles were removed, in such a way that suggested radioactive elements. Further examination of the product revealed that it was a radioactive isotope of phosphorus.

The means of atomic transmution discovered by the Curies involves bombarding nuclei with subatomic particles. The transmutation accomplished by the Curies (aluminum to phosphorus) was accomplished by bombarding aluminum with alpha particles. Alpha particles are low energy radioactive particles that consist of helium nuclei, with two protons and two neutrons. In this case aluminum (atomic number 13) is changed into phosphorus (atomic number 15) by the addition on two protons from an alpha particle. The resulting phosphorus nuclei is unstable and breaks down, releasing positrons.

For their discovery of nuclear transmutation the Curies were awarded the Nobel Prize for chemistry in 1935. Irene Juliot-Curie became only the second woman, after her mother to win the Nobel Prize in chemistry. With the prize came employment including a chair at the Sorbonne. During World War II she contracted tuberculosis and she went to Switzerland to convalesce. She made several trips back to Paris to visit her husband and children and on more than one occasion was detained by German troops. In 1956 she contracted leukemia and she died on March 17, 1956.


Bensaude-Vincent, Bernedette; "Irene Joliot-Curie" in Nobel Laureates in Chemistry, 1901-1992; Chemical Heritage Foundation, 1992

Irene Joliot-Curie Nobel Biography

Irene Joliot-Curie Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Max Ludwig Henning Delbruck

Max Ludwig Henning Delbruck was born on September 4, 1906 in Berlin Germany, the youngest of seven children of Hans Delbruck, a professor of politics at the University of Berlin and editor of a political journal. Delbruck grew up in the relatively affluent Grunewald suburb of Berlin, and lived in comfort until the outbreak of World War I, in which his older brother, Waldemar, was killed. His first interest in science was astronomy and astrophysics, later in his studies he switched to theoretical physics as it was during the time that the science of quantum mechanics was being discovered. In 1929 he received his Ph.D. in theoretical physics from the University of Gottingen. After a failed attempt to complete a thesis on novae he wrote a thesis on the quantum problem of the nonexistent diatomic lithium molecule.

After completing his thesis Delbruck spent 18 months at the University of Bristol (England) as a research assistant. After Bristol he received a Rockefeller Fellowship which allowed him to go to Copenhagen to study under Niels Bohr who influenced Delbruck's thinking about biology. In 1932 Delbruck accepted a position as an theoretical physics assistant to Lise Meitner, primarily to be near the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Biology. Hitler's rise to power in Germany caused a number of the Jewish scientists to emigrate from Germany, leaving the seminars less interesting to Delbruck. To make up for this loss Delbruck helped organize a group of physicists that met weekly to discuss physical problems. This group soon included biologists and a number of important papers emerged from these meetings, including an at first neglected paper on which Dulbruck collaborated about the nature of gene structure and mutations, that went on to be very influential.

In 1937 Dulbruck, on the strength of a second Rockefeller Fellowship, emigrated to the United States and took a position at the California Institute of Technology (Cal Tech) to study drosophila genetics. After having difficulty in learning the terminology of drosophila genetics Delbruck began studying bacterial phages with Emory Ellis. With the start of World War II, Delbruck's fellowship ran out and he took a position teaching at Vanderbilt University. The teaching position was only part time allowing Delbruck to spend the rest of his time doing phage research. During this period he collaborated with Salvador Luria, who was at the University of Indiana, and they demonstrated that bacterial resistance to phages was due to genetic mutation and not adaptive change. For this work they were awarded the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine, along with Alfred Hershey, in 1969.

Phages are viruses that infect bacteria. Like the viruses that attack plant and animal cells, they insert their genetic material into host cell (in this case a bacteria) and use the host's genetic replication mechanisms to produce copies of its own genetic material. Bacteriophages are estimated to be the most widely distributed and diverse entities in the biosphere and they were among the first viral particles to be studied on a genetic level. Delbruk's work with Luria demonstrated that genetic mutation arises independent of selection pressure, that is mutation takes place randomly and is not influenced by changes or stressors in the bacteria's environment. At the time this was considered a huge advance in the understanding genetics and its importance has been compared to the work of Gregor Mendel.

In 1947 Delbruck returned to Cal Tech where he remained until 1977, doing research applying biophysical methods to the problems of sensory physiology. He is considered one of the most influential scientists who applied physical methods to biological problems.

Delbruck died on March 9, 1981.


Delbruck, Max; interview by Carolyn Harding; at

Hayes, William;"Max Ludwig Henning Dulbreck" in Biographical Memiors Vol. 62; National Academy Press (1993)

Max Delbruck nndb entry

Luria-Delbruck experiment Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sir Gilbert Blane

Sir Gilbert Blane was born on August 29, 1749, at Blanefield, Ayrshire, Scotland the fourth son of a merchant who he was named after. Little is known about his early life other than the fact that he attended school at Kirkoswald and Maybole. At the age of 14 he was accepted into the Faculty of Arts at Edinburgh University, with the intent of joining the church. Soon his course changed and he began studying medicine taking his M.D. from Glasgow University in 1778.

After graduating he traveled to London, where with letters of recommendation he began his medical career. He became the physician of Admiral (later Lord) George Rodney and traveled with Rodney to the West Indies in 1779. Blane soon became the Physician to the Fleet, being appointed over men who had more naval experience than he had. Blane saw action in six engagements and wrote an account of the Battle of Saintes. Upon his return to Britain, Blaine was awarded a pension from the Admiralty.

While he was with the fleet Blane published, at his own expense, his notes on naval hygiene including recommendations on improvements in hygiene and diet aboard naval vessels. One of Blane's recommendations was the inclusion of fruit into the diet of sailors, to prevent scurvy. At the time the British Navy was losing more men from infection and scurvy than it was losing as casualties of battle. Adhering to Blane's recommendations Rodney's fleet lost not a single man to disease or scurvy for a six month period, from December 1781 to May 1782.

Blane was not the first to discover that fresh fruit prevented scurvy in sailors. In 1747 James Lind, a naval surgeon, divided a group of twelve sailors with scurvy into six groups of two and gave each group a different treatment: the first group was given cider, the second dilute sulfuric acid, the third vinegar, the forth sea water, the fifth fresh oranges, the sixth a spicy paste and barley water. The treatment of group five stopped after six days when they ran out of fruit, but by that time one sailor had recovered and the other was on the way to recovery. In 1768-71 Captain James Cook circumnavigated the world and did not lose a single sailor to scurvy, a feat that was attributed to their stopping to replenish supplies of fruit throughout the voyage.

Blane returned to England at the end of the war in 1783 and established a practice being appointed to be physician at St. Thomas Hospital. In 1795 he was appointed commissioner of the Sick and Wounded Board of the Admiralty. As a commissioner he was able to push through the long needed addition of lemon juice to the provisions of British Naval vessels. Tough he did not discover the link between citrus fruit and scurvy prevention it was Blane who made sure that lemon juice was provided to sailors, an advance that provided the British Navy the man power it would need to fight the Napoleonic Wars. Blane married in 1786 and would have six sons and three daughters. He also served as the personal physician for the Prince of Wales, later King George IV. In 1812 he was sent to investigate the ill fateded Walcheren Expedition and for his service to the crown he was created a baronet.

Blane died in his home in Sackville Street, London on June 26, 1834.


Leach, R. H.; Sir Gilbert Blane, Bart, MD FRS (1749-1832); Annals Royal College of Surgeons (1980)62:232-239

Wharton, Mary; Sir Gilbert Blane Bt (1749-1834); Annals Royal College of Surgeons (1984)66:375-376

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Denis Papin

Denis Papin was born in Blois, France on August 22, 1647, the son of a royal official. Although his family was Cavinist he attended a Jesuit school in Blois and in 1661 went to the University of Angers where he graduated with a medical degree in 1669. He practiced medicine for two years, until he accepted the offer of Christiaan Huygens to come and work as his assistant. The position was a combined research assistant/curator post at the newly established French Academy. He published several papers jointly with Huygens detailing their experiments with an air pump, and he published a book detailing his experiments to determine the weight of atmospheric air in 1674.

The following year Papin went to London, probably because of his Protestantism, which made his life in France difficult. In London he obtained a similar position to the one he had in France at the Royal Academy, with the assistance of Robert Boyle, who had read his book. At the Royal Academy he continued his experiments on atmospheric weight and did experiments with steam. During his tenure at the Royal Academy he invented a pressure cooker that extracted nutrients from bones and other things not normally digestible by humans. This was probably the most profitable invention of his but he gained little in the way of payment for it. One interesting feature of this invention was a valve by which excess steam could be let off, similar to valves used in later steam engines to prevent dangerous over pressurization.

In 1681 he went to Venice, but returned to London three years later. Later he was invited to take the chair in mathematics at the University of Marburg, where he married his cousin who was a widow with a daughter. The remittance for this position was less than what he required for his new family. In 1696 he moved to Cassel there he was able to complete experimental designs including a centrifugal pump, a diving bell and a submarine boat. He also concieved of ways that mechanical power could be transported over a distance by means of a vacuum tube. He received requests from mine owners for assistance in removing water and ore from their mines. Although he cannot be credited with the invention of the steam engine, his researches were pivitol in its development. He remained in Cassel until 1707 when he returned to London, leaving his family in Germany. He presented a few papers to the Royal Academy, but he was largely destitute.

The last surviving evidence of his existence is a letter dated January 27, 1712. It is believed that he died thereafter and was interred in a paupers pit grave.


Ewart, Henry C.; "Denis Papin: A Life's Work and it's Moral"; The Sunday Magazine(1880)9:316-319

Matschooss, Conrad; Great Engineers; Ayer Publishing, 1970

Denis Papin Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie

Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie was born in Dieppe, France on August 15, 1892., the younger son of Victor Duc de Broglie and Pauline d'Armaille. The history of the de Broglie family included service to the French crown for which the head of the family was granted the hereditary title of "Duc" (Duke) by Louis XIV and the German title of "Prinz" (Prince) for service to Austria during the Seven Years War. All of de Broglie's early education was provided by private tutors. In 1906 he was sent to Lycee Janson de Sailly where he spent three years completing his secondary education. De Broglie then went to the Sorbonne where he initially studied history, intending to take a job in the diplomatic service, earning a degree in 1910. Unsatisfied with his studies in the liberal arts de Broglie began studying theoretical physics.

De Broglie graduated with a degree in physics in 1913. Thereafter, as required by French law, de Broglie enlisted in the military. De Broglie served for the duration of the First World War, from 1913 to 1919. In his initial posting he was sent to a fort at Mount Valerien, where he was given very little to do and it was a difficult time for him. Later, with the influence of his brother Maurice, who had succeeded his father as Duc, de Broglie was posted to a radio station at the Eiffel Tower working as an electrician. De Broglie found this posting much more satisfying as it allowed him experience working with electrical equipment, which would serve him well in his scientific career.

After leaving the French service de Broglie worked with his brother Maurice, also a theoretical physicist, taking advantage of the laboratory built by his bother at the family mansion in Paris. At the time physicists thought of matter as being composed of particles and light was thought of as a wave-like phenomena. Albert Einstein, in his description of the photo-electric effect had demonstrated that light can behave both as a particle and a wave. Influenced by Einstein, de Broglie proposed that matter also has a dual nature, as both a particle and a wave. He proposed that the wavelength of matter is equal to Planck's constant divided by the momentum of the particle (wavelength h/p). This is true for all matter, small particles like electrons and large objects such as bullets or cars. Because of the momentum term in the wavelength equation (p) is equal to the mass of an object multiplied by its velocity (p=m*v) the wavelength gets shorter the more massive an object is and it is only for small particles that the wavelength has any practical effect. Using this insight for his doctoral thesis, his committee was unsure of the validity of his ideas and so passed his thesis on to Einstein who wholeheartedly agreed with the work. De Broglie was granted his doctorate in 1923.

De Brolie's insight into the wave nature of matter gave rise to a field of physics called wave mechanics. An electron, traveling around a nucleus, must have a wave pattern that is stable, where the length of the orbital is an integer number of wavelengths long. Erwin Schrodinger used de Broglie's theory of particle waves to work out the solutions to the wave equation that showed the behavior of an electron in a hydrogen atom and these equations agreed with experimental data.

For his discovery of the wave nature of matter de Broglie was awarded the Nobel Prize in physics in 1929. After completing his doctorate de Broglie gave a series of lectures at the Sorbonne, and was appointed professor of theoretical physics at the Poincare Institute in 1926. In 1932 he was appointed chair of theoretical physics at the Sorbonne where he taught until 1962.

De Broglie died on March 19, 1987.


"Biography of Prince Louis-Victor de Broglie the Nobel Prize in Physics 1929" at

Prince Luis de Broglie Nobel Biography

Luis de Broglie Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Ernest Orlando Lawrence

Ernest Orlando Lawrence was born in Canton, South Dakota on August 8, 1901, the son of Carl Gustavus and Gunda Lawrence. His parents were Norwegian immigrants and his father was superintendent of schools. He attended Canton High School and then St. Olaf College in Northfield, Minnesota. In 1919 he went to the University of South Dakota, working his way through college by selling kitchenware. Originally he studied for a medical career but switched to physics. He graduated in 1922 with a B.A. in Chemistry. He then went to the University of Minnesota where he earned an M.A. in physics in 1923. He then went to Yale finishing his Ph.D. in physics in 1925 completing a thesis on photoelectricity.

He remained at Yale for three more years as a National Research Fellow and assistant professor. In 1928 he left the relative comfort of his Yale position as an assistant professor to become an associate professor at the University of California Berkley. Two years later he became a full professor at Berkley, being the youngest professor at Berkley. In 1936 became director of the university's radiation laboratory. He remained at these positions until his death.

Lawrence's early research dealt with photoelectricity and the ionization potentials of gaseous metals. In 1929 he invented the cyclotron, a device which accelerates atomic particles without using high voltages. Cyclotrons use an alternating voltage to accelerate particles, and a perpendicular magnetic field holds the particles in a circular path so that they can re-encounter the accelerating voltage many times. Thus the particles are gradually sped up by multiple encounters with the accelerating voltage. Cyclotrons, because the accelerated particles move in a circular path, take up less space than linear accelerators. Cyclotrons are used to create non-naturally occurring elements by bombarding atoms with atomic particles to create larger atoms. Cyclotrons have also been used in medicine to bombard cancerous tumors with radioactive particles.

During World War II Lawrence worked to help develop the atomic bomb. His radiation laboratory actively took part in the research for the development of the bomb. A early proponent of electromagnetic separation of uranium isotopes he developed calutrons, a specialized type of mass spectrometer, to separate the isotopes. He also introduced J. Robert Oppenheimer into what would become the Manhattan Project.

In 1939 Lawrence won the Nobel Prize "for the invention and development of the cyclotron and the results obtained with it especially with regard to artificial radioactive elements." Other honors received by Lawrence include the Enrico Fermi Prize awarded by the U.S. Atomic Energy Commission in 1957 and the Sylvanus Thayer Award presented by the United States Military Academy. Element 103 (atomic number 103) is named Lawrencium after Lawrence.

In 1958 Lawrence was appointed by President Eisenhower to take part in the negotiations with the Soviet Union over and atomic weapons treaty. Despite suffering from colitis Lawrence decided to go to Geneva, to take part in the negotiations. Falling ill while he was in Geneva Lawrence was rushed back to America for medical treatment. Lawrence died one month later on August 27, 1958.


Alvarez, Luis, "Ernest Orlando Lawrence"; in Biographical Memoirs (1970) National Academy Press

Ernest Lawrence Nobel Prize Biography

Ernest Lawrence Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Georg Charles de Hevesy

Georg Charles de Hevesy was born on August 1, 1885 in Budapest, Hungary. He was the fifth of eight children of Louis de Hevesy, a public prosecutor and Eugenie (Schossberger) de Hevesy. Beginning in 1903 he attended Budapest University and Berlin Technical University studying chemistry, physics, and mathematics. He earned his doctorate in chemistry at the University of Freiburg im Breisgau in 1908.

He worked for two years at the Institute of Physical Chemistry, Technical University of Switzerland before working for a short spell with Fritz Haber and seeing much of the fundamental work Haber did developing the Haber process to synthesize ammonia. He traveled to Manchester, England in 1910 to study under Ernest Rutherford. Rutherford gave him the task or separating out the radium D from the large amount of lead in a sample of Joachimsthal pitchblende which had been given as a gift by the Austrian government. Of course, try as he might de Hevesy was not able to complete the separation. He was able to use radium D and radium E as a radioactive tracer in investigations of the kinetics of lead and bismuth in plants.

Radium is the heaviest of the alkaline earth metals (group 2 on the periodic table) and is intensely radioactive. The products of radium's decay have been historically known as A, B, C etc. Radium D is now known as lead-210, so of course de Hevesesy was unable to separate the radioactive lead isotope from the non-radioactive lead by normal chemical means, but he was able to use it as a radioactive tracer. Other experiments he performed using radioactive isotopes as tracers included using duterated water (water with radioactive hydrogen) as a tracer to determine the amount of water in the human body and using radioactive phosphorus to determine the rate of deoxyribose nucleic acids in liver and kidney cells. He also was able to determine the lifespan of red blood cells and the doubling time of artificially induced tumors using radioactive tracers.

In 1919 de Hevesy went to work at the Bohr Institute for Theoretical Physics in Copenhagen (he had become friends with Niels Bohr while working in Manchester). Bohr had de Hevesy investigated samples of zircon ore for element number 72, then an empty space on the periodic table. Working with Dirk Coster, he was able to find the missing element and named it hafnium, after the Latin name for Copenhagen, Hafnia.

In 1940, when Germany invaded Denmark, de Hevesy dissolved the Nobel Prizes of Max von Laue and James Franck in aqua regia, to prevent the Germans from stealing them, and placed the solution on a shelf in the Bohr institute. Afterwards he was forced to flee Denmark to Sweden, because of his Jewish ancestry. After the war he returned to find the solution still on the shelf where he had left it and precipitated the gold out. He gave the gold to the Nobel Society, which recast the prizes. In 1943 de Hevesy was awarded the Nobel Prize "for his work on the use of isotopes as tracers in the study of chemical processes".

De Hevesy died on July 5, 1966.


Feld, Michael, de Roo, M.;History of Nuclear Medicine in Europe; Schattauer Verlag; 2006

George de Hevesy Nobel Biography

Geroge de Hevesy Wikipedia Entry

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Rosalind Elsie Franklin

Rosalind Elsie Franklin was born in London, England on July 25, 1920, the second of five children of a prominent Anglo-Jewish family. Her father Ellis Franklin was a partner at Keyser's Bank and her mother Muriel (Waley) Franklin was active in charity work. Growing up with brothers, both older and younger, Franklin became more interested in sports and competitions than girlish things. In 1932, at age eleven, Franklin entered St. Paul's School for Girls and at the competitive school she showed an aptitude for math and science in addition to a facility for languages.

Franklin left St. Paul's in 1936, entering Newnham College at Cambridge (one of the two women's colleges at Cambridge) to major in physical chemistry. She was awarded her B.A. in 1941 and received a scholarship and a grant to do research for a year under R.G.W. Norrish's supervision. Afterwards, with the war on, Franklin was able to find a position doing research for the newly formed British Coal Utilization Research Association. Her research involved studying the microstructure of coal. Measuring the density with different liquids and helium gas she was able to determine the amount of small pores in a sample of coal. When the coal was heated to carbonizing temperatures the amount of pores increased. Her results made it possible to predict the behaviour of different coals with a high amount of accuracy. This work yielded a thesis, for which she received her Ph.D. in 1945.

After the war Franklin went to France, getting a position in the lab of Jacques Mering where she learned the technique of X-ray crystallography. X-ray crystallography is a technique in which the atomic structure of a substance by subjecting it to X-ray bombardment. The X-ray photons are diffracted by the substance and are detected by a photographic plate. The atomic structure of the substance being investigated can be determined by measuring the angles of diffraction. Franklin applied used this technique to continue her studies of carbon structure. Franklin liked the intellectual and egalitarian nature of French culture, preferring it to the middle class English customs of her upbringing.

In 1950 Franklin returned to England to work in the lab of John T. Randall at Kings College London. She was assigned to work with Maurice Wilkins to use X-ray crystallography to study DNA. The much less collegial atmosphere at Kings College did not suit Franklin and she and Wilkins did not communicate. Franklin worked on her own, with graduate student Raymond Gosling, taking increasingly clear pictures of DNA. From her pictures she realized that DNA could assume two different structures, which she labeled A and B. The A form is seen in drier conditions than the B form, the B form being the form that is found en-vivo. Previous researchers had been unable to determine an exact structure because they had been analyzing a mixture of the two forms.

Unknown to Franklin, Wilkins showed one of her diffraction photographs to Francis Crick and James Watson who were at Cambridge also working to determine the structure of DNA. The photograph provided crucial information that allowed them to publish their structure for DNA in 1953. Although they remained cordial with Franklin, Watson and Crick never fully acknowledged the help they received from Franklin in determining their structure.

Unhappy working at Kings College, Franklin arranged to transfer her fellowship to work at the crystallography laboratory of J.D. Bernal at Birkbeck College. There Franklin used her skill with X-ray crystallography to study viruses, particularly the tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) and determined that the virus' genetic material (RNA in the case of TMC) is embedded in the inner wall of its protein shell.

In the Fall of 1956 Franklin was diagnosed with ovarian cancer. She died on April 16, 1958.


Elkin, Lynne Osman; "Rosalind Franklin and the Double Helix"; Physics Today (2003)56:42-48

Maddox, Brendal; Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA
; Harper Collins; 2003

The Rosalind Frankin Papers at

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Charles Palache

Charles Palache was born in San Francisco, California on July 18, 1869. His father, James Palache, had come to California from New York as a cabin boy in 1849 lured by the gold rush, and there set up as a merchant. His mother, Helen Whitney, had come to California in a covered wagon from Green Bay, Wisconsin. Charles, a sensitive child, showed an early interest in natural history and avidly collected rocks. During his childhood his family moved across the bay to Berkley. In 1887 he graduated from Berkley High School and entered the University of California Berkley, selecting to study mining, because of the emphasis on natural history in the program. He soon found out that he was "repelled by the prospect of life in the mine" but when assigned to make a map of the Berkley hills he found that he enjoyed the work. During the assignment he found a set of ponds up in the hills in a place unlikely for ponds. He returned to the ponds and mapped them with his professor. The lakes were actually a result of the rift that would eventually cause the 1906 San Francisco earthquake.

Palace graduated at the top of his class and stayed at Berkley to earn his doctorate under Andrew C. Lawson. In 1894 Palache went to study in Europe where he studied crystallography under Victor Goldschmidt, laying the foundation for the work he would pursue for the next fifty five years. Palache, after returning to California, received an offer to become an assistant at Harvard University. In 1899 he took part in the Harriman expidition to Alaska, postponing his wedding in order to do so. In 1902 he was named assistant professor, professor in 1910 and professor emeritus after his retirement in 1941.

Palache's major field of work at Harvard was morphological crystallography. There is scarcely a crystallized mineral that he did not work on. He was the first person to bring a Goldschmidt two circle reflecting gonometer to a America. A gonometer is an instrument used to measure the angles of crystals. Palache published over 150 papers on crystallography. In 1919 he helped organize the Mineralogical Society of America and two years later served as its president. He was elected to the National Academy of Science in 1934. In 1936 he was elected president of the Geological Society of America and in 1937 he was the first recipient of the Roebling Medal given by the Mineralogical Society of America. Palache's greatest achievement however was the comp

Plache's greatest achievement, however, was the preparation of the 7th edition of the Dana System of Mineralogy using the new tool of X-ray crystallography. This is the standard handbook used to identify minerals. The first volume was published in 1944 and the second in 1951.

Palache died on December 5, 1954


Daly, Reginald;"Charles Palache: 1896-1954"; Biographical Memiors Vol. 30; National Academy Press; 1957

Frondel, Cliford; "Memorial of Charles Palache" at

Charles Palache: 1896-1954 at

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Cluade Bernard

Claude Bernard was born on July 12, 1813, in Saint-Julien, a small village near Villefranche-sur-Saone, in eastern France. His father owned a small estate that produced wine. A bright child, the village cure took him under his wing, teaching him Latin and making him a choir boy. Afterwards he went to the Jesuit college in Villefanche. He briefly went to the university in Lyon, but due to financial reasons he was forced to take a job as a pharmacist's assistant, at first working for only room an board.

Bernard's ambitions were not initially for medicine, but for literature. He wrote several plays and had one successfully performed. In 1834, at 21, using the proceeds of his play, Bernard went to Paris, with a five act history he had written. In Paris, he showed the play to Saint-Marc Girardin, a literary critic, professor at the Sorbonne, and at the time the last word on French letters. Girardin, told Bernard that he should study medicine and not write plays. Bernard threw himself into the study of medicine and in 1839 he was appointed an interne at the Hotel Deiu. This position allowed to come into contact with Francios Magendie, the experimental physiologist. In 1843 Bernard finished his doctorate with a thesis on gastric juice and the role it plays in digestion which won him a prize from the Academie des Sciences for experimental medicine in 1850.

After the initial success of his thesis, in which he showed that complex carbohydrates were broken down by gastric secretions, Bernard wanted to continue his research to determine the fate of three basic nutritional components of food (sugars, fats and proteins) in the body. Using a dog fed only protein, he found that there was sugar in the dog's liver. This led him to the conclusion that the liver synthesizes sugar. Additionally he discovered that after the liver had been washed out and left to sit for a while, an additional amount of sugar was released. This was the discovery of glycogen, Bernard's most famous discovery.

Glycogen is the way the body stores carbohydrates for later use and it is found in the liver and in muscle tissues. After eating, when the body has an excess of glucose, glycogen is stored for later use. Insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, stimulates the cells of the body to uptake glucose and store it as glycogen. When the amount of glucose in the blood stream drops, glucagon is produced by the pancreas which causes the glycogen in the liver to be broken down and released into the blood stream. In this way the body is able to maintain a constant amount of glucose in the blood stream.

Bernard's other major discovery was the effect of vaso-motor nerves. Initially investigating the effect of heat on the body he discovered the vaso-dilating and vaso-constricting affect of the nervous system.

In 1847 Bernard was appointed Magendie's deputy and in 1855 he succeeded his mentor as professor. In 1864 he was introduced to Napoleon III, who created for him two well supplied laboratories. In 1869 he was made senator, a position he lost the next year with the fall of the Emperor. Bernard had little interest in politics and continued his research. Though he was honored throughout the world for his discoveries, he was estranged from his family. His wife and daughters, ashamed of the vivisections he used in his research, left him.

Bernard died on February 10, 1878.


Foster, Sir Michael; Claude Bernard; Longmans, Green, and Co.; 1899

Anonymous; Heroes of Medicine: Claude Bernard; The Practitioner; 63(1899)185-190

Claude Bernard, Wikipedia Entry